When you hear the word “sweet,” what comes to mind?
Candy and desserts? A beloved person? How about a gay man?
Unfortunately that is the conundrum – and urban slang description – protagonist Marcus faces in Trustus Theatre’s newest play, “Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet,” set to debut this Friday, Feb. 3.
As Part III of The Brother/Sister Plays series created by “Moonlight” Golden Globe winner Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Marcus” is the coming-of-age story of a 16-year-old boy living in the fictional projects of San Pere, Louisiana.
The first play, “In the Red and Brown Water” was shown in January 2015; the second, “The Brothers Size” in October 2015. Chad Henderson, Trustus’s artistic director and director of the new play, said even if you didn’t get to see the first two in the series, this production stands well on its own.
“These plays definitely have plot points that intertwine. However, (McCraney) has furnished us with three very unique scripts,” Henderson said. “Those who saw the other shows will get the benefit of being ‘in’ on the shared story lines. However if you’re seeing ‘Marcus’ without seeing the other two, you’ll still be in for a very full evening and won’t realize you’ve missed anything.”
The stories of The Brother/Sister Plays take place over the course of about 20 years. In the first play, Elegba has a son with a woman named Oba, and that son’s name is Marc (aka Marcus). Fast forward to this new production, where we meet Marcus and his mother, who was never revealed in the first play.
“One of the major plot lines is that Marcus keeps seeing this man in his dreams – nobody he recognizes, a complete stranger,” said Henderson. “However, we begin to learn that he is Oshoosi Size, one of the main characters of ‘The Brothers Size’ and brother to Ogun Size (the only character that appears in all three plays).”
New to the series is title character Marcus, played by John Floyd. Floyd describes Marcus as a smart young man who finds himself on an adventure, of sorts, to find out his personal and sexual identity.
“This story really examines the intersections of race, personal identity, culture and sexuality,” he said. “To be black and gay, anywhere in America, is very difficult. It can feel like there is this pressure for black men to be tough, strong and incapable of expressing emotions that appear weak. This show lets us live with a character who doesn’t fit that expectation. Yes, it is a coming-out story, but he is becoming a man, and this is his story of trying to figure out what that means.”
Katrina Blanding, who plays both Aunt Elegua and Shun, said to her, “Marcus” is another way for the African-American and American story to be told.
“This play is a refreshing and intimate look at the truth of one of many black stories,” she said. “It’s not only filled with beautiful words. It feeds the part of you that longs for meaning and the empathy that we are missing in the world today.”
Floyd said what makes “Marcus” unique to him is that it hooks viewers by inviting them inside the narrative, making them feel complicit in the storytelling.
“Since (McCraney) continues his style of emphasizing theatrical storytelling with this third installment, it again serves to allow the audience to be in the moment with the performers,” said Henderson. “The style of the play is unique and incredibly theatrical – yet somehow resonates as very truthful and real. You won’t experience another play like it this year in Columbia.”
If you go
“Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet”
WHERE: Trustus Theatre, Thigpin Main Stage, 520 Lady St.
WHEN: 8 p.m. opening weekend, Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4. Runs others days and times through Saturday, Feb. 18.
COST: Weekends, $30 for adults and $20 for students. Weekdays and matinees, $25 for adults and $20 for students.